Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Link Love

Did Friday just sneak up on you like it did me? I mean this week just flew by! Normally I work a half day on Friday’s, but I still have a few things left on my to-do list from yesterday that didn’t get done and client project due today. I’m working on some personal projects over the weekend and of course more packing…

If any of you are located in Alabama or Georgia and were affected by the tornadoes, my thoughts and prayers are with you. My mother and a few other family members live in North Alabama, and thankfully are they are all doing okay. Lots of residents are currently without power, and I know how inconvenient that can be. Please hang in there.

As always I enjoyed some really great blog entries this week. Hope you enjoy them too.

Is It Smart Or Dumb to Follow Your Freelance Writing Dreams in This Economy?
What Have You Sacrificed to Become a Freelance Writer?
Print vs.Web Writers: Is There a Great Divide?
Become a More Confident Freelancer
Short-Term Money Is Killing Me

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Can Your Freelance Writing Clients Depend on You?

Yesterday I attended a free webinar courtesy of called “Engagement with a Purpose: How to Create Customers for Life - Authority Rules.” It’s part of an on-going series, so check it out if you can. Sonia Simone and Chris Garrett led the discussion. One thing really jumped out at me is when Chris said, " You don’t have to be the best writer, as long as you deliver what you promise –always do what you say because your reputation is your most valuable asset . "

A couple of years ago, after completing an extensive and rather exhausting project for a small business, the client thanked me graciously for my work and sticking with the project, even when it became difficult. He then made what was at the time a startling revelation. He said he was so glad to have found a reliable writer because he had been repeatedly burned in the past by writers not meeting deadlines.

This was surprising news to me, a writer who is always on the lookout for clients and paying projects. I can’t wrap my mind around why a writer would chance missing a deadline and thus getting paid (not to mention an opportunity for future work). I just don’t get it. Yesterday, during the webinar, Sonia and Chris confirmed that this is a big problem all around. They went on to explained that there are quite a few freelancers out there that don’t follow through, but if you can do that then you’re already ahead of the game.

Missing deadlines and not delivering the value that you promise a client is a big no-no in the freelancing world. When you hire someone to do something, you expect them to do it. If they don’t, you probably won’t bother contacting them in the future. You know that old saying: “Past behavior predicts future behavior.”

Sometimes things happen and deadlines can’t be met, or you realize it's best to end a client relationship. There’s a professional way to handle each scenario, starting with letting the client know as soon as possible. This is value your clients have every reason to expect from you. People like to work with people they like and can trust. Become the person your clients automatically turn to when they need top notch, dependable service. Set yourself apart from the freelancers that haven’t grasped this concept.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Local Businesses Need Online Marketing Advice

As I was driving back home this morning after dropping the kids off at school, I noticed the neighborhood dry cleaning service had a new banner stretched across the top of the building that read: “Now on the Internet.”

Most of the clients I serve need help with creating and/or spreading their marketing message to a targeted audience online. I tend to automatically assume that “everyone” is already utilizing the Internet as part of their overall marketing strategy. That banner, however, is proof that this is not so. There are still plenty of small and mid-size local businesses out there in need of guidance when it comes to marketing online.

When I was visiting my hometown last month, I stopped to grab a quick lunch at a very popular mom and pop owned sub sandwich shop. The owner and I struck up a conversation about how they could effectively utilize Facebook or Twitter (they have a huge customer base consisting of college students) to bring in more business.

After a meeting with my father’s lawyer last month, the attorney asked if we could set aside extra time during our next meeting to discuss his website copy and whether or not establishing a blog would be beneficial.

Look around your own community at local businesses that may need help establishing a presence online. Call them up to find out who’s in charge of hiring contract/freelance services and send them a brochure. Then follow up within a couple of weeks to discuss how you may be of service.

Do you regularly market your services to local businesses?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Morning Link Love

Friday was complete and utter chaos here in my little home office. It’s bad enough that I have books, files and miscellaneous papers strewn all over the place as I attempt to simultaneously manage freelance writing client projects, the kids' school projects and keep my family on a packing schedule for the Big Move in June (It really is a sight to see. Maybe I’ll get brave enough to post a photo of all this madness).

On top of all that my oldest and youngest both got sick. My oldest has a chronic health condition resulting in a midnight ER visit Thursday night/Friday morning. The youngest decided to bring home the latest bug passing through his Pre-K class Thursday afternoon after school. Perfect.

Hubby and I immediately launched into team mode – he made the ER trip that night with our daughter while I stayed home to work on getting the little one’s fever down, and making sure the twins were up and ready for school on time Friday morning. Needless to say I took Friday off for some much needed rest. Not much packing got done this weekend, but I did take time out to enjoy a few of my favorite blogs. Hope you enjoy these links as much as I did.

Navigating the Pitfalls of a Client – Friend Relationship
3 New Twitter Apps I Can’t Live Without
How Freelance Writers Can Build Editor Relationships
Which Online Resources do You Utilize to Develop Your Freelance Writing Business?
The Trials and Triumphs of Freelancing of Freelancing Abroad

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Optimize Your Freelance Writing Business Online for Local Search

Thanks to the Internet, being a freelance writer means being able to work with clients all over the world. There are very few limits. Unfortunately, many writers totally ignore their local market’s need for professional writing services, especially when marketing their business online.

For niche/specialty writers, (writers specializing in a specific area such as medical/dental writing, insurance, legal(writing for attorneys, etc.) optimizing your website or blog for improved local search engine results makes it much easier for local businesses to find you. Some local organizations prefer working with vendors in their own neighborhood so it makes good business sense to take advantage of every opportunity, proximity included.

Rep Your City

Can you imagine how many writers out there are claiming common titles like “copywriter,” “online copywriter,” “web writer,” or “blogger?” There’s nothing wrong with this, but online you’re literally competing with thousands and thousands of other writers sporting the exact same title. So what can you do?

Try tweaking the keywords in your title. You’ll get a lot more attention calling yourself the “Austin Texas Real Estate Blogger” than simply going by the title “blogger” or even “real estate blogger” alone. If you serve a specific niche of localized businesses like attorneys, dentists or doctors, this can give you an online marketing advantage. When I added “Atlanta” to my web writer title on my business blog, I started getting contacted by more small and mid-size businesses within the city and even a couple of surrounding states.

Update All Profiles

All online profiles representing your business should be consistent and include information like your title (as stated in the previous section) and location.

List Your Business with Google Business Center

This isn’t for everyone. It’s free to list your business in Google’s Local Business Center, but the catch is you need a physical address. Many writers don’t list their local address for obvious reasons, but if you happen to share office space, or listing your location is not an issue, listing your business can give you a nice localized ranking boost in the search engines.

Keep All Online Business Information Consistent

Keep your business identity consistent. Your website address, mailing address (if you choose to include this information), phone/fax number and email should be the same in profiles and all other business sources where you list your business. This definitely impacts local search results.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Do You Need Permission to Raise Your Freelance Writing Rates?

Over the weekend a writer acquaintance and I were discussing rates. My writer friend was planning to raise her rates within the next couple of months. She asked whether or not I thought she should send her current clients an email explaining why she was making this decision.

I asked her to think of businesses she regularly patronizes – the local cable provider, grocery store or favorite restaurant. When they raise their rates, do they offer explanations? It’s a given in most businesses that as operation expenses increase, rates must increase as a result. I suggested she take this same stance with her rate increase.

Sending out an explanation for a rate increase can almost seem as if you’re seeking approval for a logical business decision. Your rates have to cover business and living expenses, and there’s absolutely no reason to apologize for that. I suggested sending out notices altering clients of the rate change giving them a chance to schedule projects at the current rate before the price change takes effect.

Do you let your clients know about rate increases?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why I Choose Freelance Writing Over Employment

Is it just me, or does anyone else break out in a cold sweat (or hives) at the thought of working a “nine to five?” Please don’t think I’m some self-employed snob. I worked in a corporate environment for eight years, and I‘ll admit that I’ve sometimes wondered whether it would be easier to get a guaranteed check every week, employer provided benefits and paid time off for vacations, there’s nothing more satisfying to me than being able to provide those things for myself.

Why am I even discussing this? Well, something interesting happened to me this week. I was doing some marketing late Tuesday evening, contacting prospects by email about my services, when I unexpectedly received a response email from a company’s Human Resource Manager. She asked whether or not I would consider employment status over working for her company as a contract writer.

Her question caught me off guard for a moment. On the one hand I was being offered the promise of reliable pay and work, but at what cost? I know we’re still dealing with financially troubled times right now, and some might be reading this wondering what kind of idiot stands around questioning a steady pay check? Well I’ll tell you what kind.

My background is in the newspaper industry. Although I left my job before the industry truly crumbled, my position provided a front row seat to the unpredictability of working for someone else. Some of my coworkers had worked for this publication for 20+ years. This publication had a well-earned reputation as a place where employees stuck around until retirement. Then came the Internet, and around 2000, it’s presence was felt as print’s biggest revenue source was threatened – advertising. I could see the writing on the wall as I left. Unfortunately, many of my coworkers continued to be lulled into a false sense of security and the mass layoffs caught them off guard. My inability to pay child care for my soon to be newborn twins and two year old was the catalyst that led me to resign, otherwise I may have ignored the signs and continued working along with everyone else hoping for the best.

I have a family, so naturally the idea of security appeals to me; but my life also requires a great deal of flexibility. Even though this Human Resource Manager was offering me an opportunity to work from home, a flexible work schedule wasn’t part of the deal. And maybe I’m spoiled now, but I don’t want to be obligated to work on projects that don’t work for me.

So in the end I politely explained to the HR manager that I prefer to maintain a freelance status, and am always open to other opportunities. She seemed okay with my response and offered to pass my name along to the person in charge of hiring freelancers and other vendors.

I’ve been freelancing for five years now. I’ve seen my share of financially tight months, but I’ve managed to stick with it and find a groove that provides a contentment and security my old job could not. Working for several clients feels more financially secure to me than relying on one job, so sticking to my freelance writer status works best for me.

What would you do? Would you choose a full-time or part-time position over freelancing?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's Okay to Just Say "No"

The first time I turned down a project, it felt really weird. I’ve written about this experience in a previous entry. Long story short: the client was extremely demanding, didn’t want to deal with service agreements and was constantly trying to nickel and dime me at every turn.

Fast forward to today; I’ve worked with enough clients to know that I most definitely made the right decision that day. Now I understand that the relationship between freelancers and client is just as complex as any other relationship. Sometimes there’s chemistry. Sometimes there’s not. Sometimes your personalities and approaches to working on a project are complementary. Sometimes they’re not.

In the past when I’d find myself in a difficult working situation (not too often, thankfully), I would resign myself to just grin and bear it thinking that’s just good customer service. Besides, who was I to turn away a paying gig?

It took another more seasoned freelancer to help me see the light. She explained that just because I’m a freelancer doesn’t mean every client, or project, is going to be a perfect fit. Freelancing means you have the freedom to do things like decide who you work with and who’s best to be avoided like bubonic plague. She assured me that with time I’d learn to recognize the signs of projects I should avoid early on – and she was right.

It chose to freelance because I wanted freedom and control over the way I worked. It wouldn’t make much sense for me to spend my career working on projects that make me miserable.
So how do I know when to turn down a project?

  • When a prospect keeps trying to convince me to lower my rate.
  • When there are too many decision makers working on the project.
  • When it’s too difficult to get the information I need to do my job.
  • When the scope of a project keeps changing.
  • When a client has a problem signing an agreement.
  • When there’s a personality conflict.
  • When I have so much on my plate that I know that I won't be able to give a project 100%.
What would make you turn down a potential project?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Are You Ready for Spring Break?

It’s spring break around here. The challenge: meet my weekly/monthly freelance writing income goals in spite of four children under 11 engaging in constant combat and constantly complaining of boredom. Add the fact that we are packing to move out of state by June, and I’m leaving town on Wednesday, and you’ll understand exactly why I‘m praying for patience.

The good part about this spring break is we’re probably more prepared this year than we’ve ever been. Come to think of it, this is also a good time to start making summer plans for the kids. We’ll be in another state, so I’ll need to do some research now to find out what’s available. Making sure the kids have something to look forward to and do when we get to our new city will make it easier for me to unpack and transition more smoothly into my new office space (I hope).

In the mean time, I’ve planned my work schedule around a couple of fun activities, and have plenty of snacks and dvds on hand. I think we’ll survive.

What are your plans for spring break? Working (like me) or vacationing?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Should You Be Offering Your Clients a Money Back Guarantee?

Today is April 1st – we are entering a new month and a new quarter. Can you believe it? Time to review the first quarter to see where you are in your business. Did you meet any short-term goals? Are you still on track with marketing and other objectives? Do you need to make any corrective changes to your plan (it’s okay if you do; I do it quite often)?

Earlier this week I was reading a post at Freelance Folder by Lexi Rodrigo about whether or not it’s good business to offer freelance clients guarantee. I think she did an excellent job of ultimately arguing the case against doing this.

As freelance writers, time is our most valuable commodity. When you spend x hours working on a project, you can never get that time back. And since every project is specific to the client being serviced, it’s not like you can just turn around and sell what you’ve done to someone else because the client doesn’t like the end result.

I do know some writers who offer a guarantee of project completion – meaning they offer clients money back if the project is not completed by the projected deadline. I’m assuming the occurrence of extenuating circumstances is somehow outlined in their agreements.

What do you think about offering client’s a money back guarantee?

Once again I enjoyed quite a few blog posts this week. I’ll leave you with a few of my favorites. Enjoy your weekend!

Why Your Own Blog is a Better Marketing Tool Than Cheap Client Content
Copyright Primer
5 Reasons to Write for Underrated Trades
How to Figure Out Which Editor to Query
Does Your Business Blog Need CPR?
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